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The Trek Nation - Keith R. A. DeCandido Interview

Keith R. A. DeCandido Interview

By Jim Zimmerman
Posted at July 31, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT

Question: We're speaking with Keith R. A. DeCandido, writer of "Perchance to Dream," the first Star Trek limited series to be released by WildStorm Comics (beginning in December, 1999).

Keith, first of all, how about telling us a little bit about yourself and your previous work? This is your first comic book, but it's not the first time you've worked with comic book or television characters, is it?

Answer: Nope. I've written a Spider-Man novel (VENOM'S WRATH, in collaboration with Jose R. Nieto), two Spider-Man short stories (in THE ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN and UNTOLD TALES OF SPIDER-MAN), a Silver Surfer short story (THE ULTIMATE SILVER SURFER), a DOCTOR WHO short story (DECALOG 3: CONSEQUENCES), a Hulk short story (THE ULTIMATE HULK), a XENA short story (in an anthology Ace is publishing next year), a BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER novel (THE XANDER YEARS Volume 1), and two YOUNG HERCULES novels (CHEIRON'S WARRIORS and THE ARES ALLIANCE, due in September and November).

From your past work, it looks like you're pretty familiar with the comic book world. Do you have any favorite characters or ones you'd like to try writing for in mainstream comics?

Spider-Man's always been one of my absolute favorites -- which is why writing VENOM'S WRATH was such a kick. And I've also always loved the Avengers. I used to be a big X-Men fan, but they drained my enthusiasm over the years. And I wouldn't mind writing for the MC2 line, believe it or not.

How long have you followed Star Trek? Do you consider yourself a Trek fan?

Since birth. Hell, before that -- my parents were avid TREK viewers when the show first aired. I was born in April 1969, and my parents continued to watch the show in reruns. I grew up watching the show on New York City's Channel 11 every weeknight at 6 pm. I never really got into capital-F fandom, but I was always a huge fan of the show, as were several schoolchums. I saw all the movies in the theater, I played FASA's TREK role-playing game, I read the novels and comics (for the record, I =still= think that Vonda McIntyre's THE ENTROPY EFFECT is the best-ever TREK novel). And I avidly watched both TNG and DS9. (I really really tried to like VOYAGER, but I just couldn't do it.)

So, uh, yeah, I consider myself a TREK fan.

Let's move on to your upcoming limited series. How did "Perchance to Dream" come about? Were you previously acquainted with editor Jeff Mariotte? Did you approach him or did he approach you?

I've known Jeff for years -- in fact, I edited his first novel, the Gen13 novel NETHERWAR that he wrote with Christopher Golden. When I heard that WildStorm got the TREK license and was looking for proposals, I sent him a couple. PERCHANCE was the one he liked. It actually started out as a novel proposal, but it wound up working better in a visual medium, so I reworked it. This turned out to be the right decision, to my mind.

This is a TNG story. Does it focus primarily on a certain cast member or members? In other words, is this a Picard story, for instance?

Three characters get the spotlight over the course of the series: Worf, Picard, and Data. In Worf's case, I wanted him to actually act like a competent security chief, something he never got to do in seven seasons --tactical officer, yes, but never security chief; when he did, he generally failed (e.g., "Power Play," "The Hunted"). In Data's case, I used his dream program as a way to heighten the danger in the miniseries' climax. As for Picard, I've always wanted to do a story that deals with the fact that he has three other personalities rummaging around in his head: Locutus of Borg (from "The Best of Both Worlds"), Kamin (whose life he lived for three subjective decades in "The Inner Light"), and Sarek (after the mindmeld in "Sarek"). The story forces him to bring those other personalities to the fore.

I'm intrigued already! What is the time frame in which this story transpires: post-INSURRECTION or during some other period?

It takes place between "All Good Things..." and GENERATIONS, so it's on the Enterprise-D. I wanted to have it take place as recently as possible, so I could make use of as much of TREK's history as I could, but it had to haveWorf as the Enterprise security chief in order to work, so it had to be before GENERATIONS. Doing that allowed me to play up Data's agonizing over the emotion chip that he eventually installed in GENERATIONS.

How would you summarize the plot of the story? What is the significance of the title, "Perchance to Dream?"

Damiano is a Federation member planet where the animal life has three genders. The new planetary governor -- who will be the first Damiani to serve on the Federation Council -- is the subject of a scandal: she only has one sexual partner (on Damiano, traditional family units have three adults). Most don't give a damn, but a moralist faction is making assassination threats. Worf is asked to bolster security for the inauguration, and he manages to derail three assassination attempts. As revenge, the leader of the assassins unleashes a telepathic weapon that attacks people through their dreams -- hence the title, which is from Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech. All the individual issue titles come from that speech as well. The Enterprise crew has to figure out how to defeat the weapon -- and soon, since the weapon has locked Data into his dream program. The first issue opens with a dream Data has where he is alone on the ship when it explodes, and the weapon is making him act out that dream in real life in the fourth issue.

That sounds fascinating! And you've really piqued my curiosity with the Hamlet thing. Would you be willing to share the individual issue titles with us?

Sure: #1 is "To Take Arms Against a Sea of Troubles." #2 is "By a Sleep to Say We End." #3 is "In that Sleep of Death What Dreams May Come." And #4 is the impossible-to-resist "Enterprises of Great Pitch and Moment."

Mariotte has announced that the penciler for this book is a new artist named Peter Pachoumis. Some of us have had the opportunity to sample Pachoumis' art in the recent "All-Star 80 Page Giant," for which he pencilled an Hourman story. Have you had the opportunity to see any of the art for "Perchance to Dream"? If so, what are your impressions?

Actually, I was the one who brought Pete to the project. When I was working for Byron Preiss, Pete had sent in samples that I absolutely loved. The right project never materialized there, but I knew Pete was a TREK fan, so when Paramount approved the proposal for PERCHANCE, I put Jeff and Pete in touch. Since Pete had already done cover work for Marvel's TREK comics, he was already known to Paramount.

So far, I've seen a two-page spread from issue #2 -- which we did out of sequence so WildStorm could show off art at conventions and things -- and the first two pages of issue #1. They both look fantastic. I think everyone will be very happy with Pete's work.

Since "Perchance to Dream" deals with a tri-gendered race, I wonder if that presented a challenge for the artist? Did you make suggestions about their depiction, or was that solely up to him?

It was a collaborative thing. He came up with the basic look for the aliens, I made suggestions on how to differentiate among the three races, and he added an idea of his own. My primary concern was that they not just be male, female, and other. All three genders have both male and female characteristics -- I wanted it clear that these were very alien people, not just the folks-with-funny-foreheads that are the norm on modern TREK.

To give credit where it's due, the idea of the tri-gendered race, and the only-sleeps-with-one-person scandal, came from Pocket Books TREK editor John Ordover. (Take a bow, John.)

Speaking of Pocket Books and John Ordover, you're also working on a TNG novel for them, entitled DIPLOMATIC IMPLAUSIBILITY. I understand that this book features Worf as Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire (post-DS9). What else can you tell us about it? Do you have any idea how soon it may be published?

It hasn't been scheduled yet -- figure late 2000 at the absolute earliest, more likely some time in 2001.

The plot will deal with some post-Dominion War fallout in the Klingon Empire. We'll get to see a conquered Klingon world that has rebelled against the empire and how they deal with it. We'll also get to see a Klingon vessel -- the Gorkon -- that is populated by a variety of familiar-looking Klingons: Klag (from "A Matter of Honor"), Kurak (from"Suspicions"), Drex (Martok's son from "The Way of the Warrior"), Toq (from"Birthright"), plus some new characters -- and Rodek, the new identity that Worf's brother Kurn took on after Bashir wiped his memory and did surgery on his crest in "The Sons of Mogh." Martok will be in it, also, as will the crew of the Enterprise-E -- but only briefly. Mainly it's Worf's story. I wanted to show some elements of Klingon culture that have been discussed, but not seen much. We haven't seen a conquered Klingon world since "Errand of Mercy." We've never actually seen someone advance in rank by assassinating his or her superior. Both of those things are in DI.

I'm hoping the book will do well enough to do a bunch of Ambassador Worf novels with the Gorkon crew -- but that's jumping the gun. I gotta get the first one done, first.

This will be your first Star Trek novel as well. How did it come about?

I've known John Ordover, the TREK novel editor, for almost a decade now. I've done a bunch of work for him -- some research here, some cover copy there, some editing work over there (I did continuity editing on the"Double Helix" crossover novels) -- and I finally started sending him novel proposals once I became an established novelist with the Spidey, BUFFY, and YOUNG HERC books. DI was actually the third one I sent him -- the other two didn't work for a variety of reasons -- and one he encouraged me to do once it was revealed what Worf's post-DS9 fate would be. He knew how much I liked Worf, and figured I was the right person to do the first Ambassador Worf story.

In some ways, this sounds like a dream assignment. Were you given free reign to develop the post-DS9 Worf, or did you have to work within certain restraints (other than what was established in "What You Leave Behind")? And how do you feel about Worf as an ambassador?

Not a helluva lot to "develop," really. Worf already has a history of problem-solving in creative ways, whether it was his solution to the 80-year-old Klingon ship in "The Emissary" or his solution to the Kahless problem in "Rightful Heir." And Worf probably has the best-established character in TREK history, with the possible exception of Spock, due to, if nothing else, the fact that he's gotten more screen time than any other character. Having said that, I wasn't given any formal restrictions, and Paramount didn't have a problem with anything I came up with.

I think Worf is, in many ways, the ideal choice for Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire because he has his feet planted so solidly in both worlds -- and because he is in many ways the ideal Klingon (partly because he didn't grow up in the empire, and only had the ideals to work from, not the realities of day-to-day existence).

The only serious addition I made was to give him an assistant, who will serve as his Jeeves or Bunter -- a human named Giancarlo Wu. And then I gave him exactly the sort of problem diplomats have to deal with.

One thing that I want to pick up on from the last season of DS9 is the fact that Worf has matured a great deal. I mean, when we first saw the guy, he rolled out of the ops chair to blow a hole in Q's face on the viewscreen. He's gone from someone who would have to noticeably restrain himself when someone even =mentioned= Romulans to brushing off Martok's comment about how Romulan-like he was when he suggested Martok challenge Gowron. (For that matter, Worf was the one saying how you can't challenge the chancellor during a war in "Redemption," but he was advocating it to Martok in the recent story arc.)

As for things like Worf's personal life, I'm going to avoid that, for the most part. Given his track record with relationships -- K'Eylahr, Ba'el, Troi, Jadzia -- I suspect he's going to swear off women for a while, and the Worf-as-single-parent theme was done to death on both TNG and DS9 (which means we won't be seeing Alexander in DI, though he will be mentioned).

How would you compare your two Star Trek projects? Which is more satisfying? Which is more difficult?

I won't know which is more satisfying until they're both finished, which is a ways off yet. I can say that PERCHANCE is more difficult because I'm writing in a new format. I've written five novels and whole bunches of short stories -- so I'm pretty used to prose. Comics scripting is a much different format and just doesn't come as easily.

Both of these projects have dealt with TNG. Do you have any interest in writing about the other shows?

Well, DIPLOMATIC IMPLAUSIBILITY is as much a DS9 novel as it is a TNG novel, as it picks up multiple themes from DS9 -- and, actually, I find DS9 to be the best of the four shows. Since the Enterprise-E does appear in DI-- and since, to be completely mercenary, TNG novels sell better -- it will be billed as TNG, but it's really a Worf-after-"What You Leave Behind..." novel. I've actually got ideas from all four milieus -- even, God help me,VOYAGER, which I can't stand.

Can you tell us anything specific about any of these future Trek projects?

Well, I've got a couple more comics ideas, but WildStorm is trying to use as many different people as possible, so if that does happen, it won't be for quite a while. I have at least two other novel ideas -- one TNG, oneVOYAGER -- but I want to get through DI and PERCHANCE first.

Where can your fans find out more about your other work? This is where you shamelessly plug your website :-)

Never let it be said that I passed up an opportunity to be shameless. My web site is at http://www.sff.net/people/krad. You can learn about my writing and editing work, see my snide commentary on a variety of subjects, learn about the band I'm in, the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players (who actually have their own web site at www.dqydjp.com -- we're a rock band, for which I play percussion and do backup vocals), and other stuff. I share the site with my wife Marina Frants, and you can learn about =her=, too, including some magnificent scans of her underwater photographs.

Thank you Keith. We appreciate your time and interest. We're all anxious to see your Star Trek work in print! Maybe we can do this again some time.

You're quite welcome! Thanks for the interview!

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Jim Zimmerman is the webmaster of the Trek Nation comics site.